Hunters lurk among us

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ashley J. Thum
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a predator as "one that preys, destroys or devours."

This phrase, although brief, aptly describes what a sexual predator does to a victim's self-worth and their sense of security.

Spotting - and successfully prosecuting - an offender is sometimes easier said than done. However, with a healthy dose of vigilance, Airmen can help turn the hunters into the hunted.

Tech. Sgt. Purnell Smith, 28th Security Forces Squadron police services NCO in charge, said it can be difficult to keep one's distance from an attacker since they often blend in with the crowd. Still, there are a few things people can watch for.

"It would be easy to protect ourselves from predators if we could identify them just from their appearance or behavior," Smith said. "Unfortunately, that is not the case. Since we cannot readily identify a predator, we should try and minimize situations that make us vulnerable."

Robert O'Brien, 28th SFS detective, has worked in law enforcement for nearly 20 years. He said most people conjure up images of someone who is "creepy" or "dirty" when they think of an attacker, but in reality, an offender can be exactly the opposite.

"They're hard to pinpoint," O'Brien said. "They could be anyone and they could look like anybody. People are often shocked when a predator is identified."

Glenn Marcy, 28th SFS investigator, said predators usually target specific groups of people, but their attacks don't always involve an actual assault.

"They're looking for some type of sexual contact," Marcy explained. "A predator can find pleasure in lots of different things. Unlike someone who actually commits a sexual assault or sexual abuse, sexual predators have an explanation for what they did, and think they can talk themselves out of it because it `wasn't wrong' in their own minds."

Smith said sexual attacks are often associated with alcohol abuse, and his advice is for people to surround themselves with trustworthy people, and to stay in small groups when going out.

"Predators can be the quiet, nice person who takes advantage of the friend who trusts them," Smith noted. "Be around people you can expect to be your wingman, because your safety is in their hands."

O'Brien added Airmen should not let the possibility of encountering a predator inhibit them, but should use public information outlets, like social media, wisely.

"Make sure your actions are smart, and don't make yourself an easy target," O'Brien said.

Marcy, whose career in law enforcement spans 11 years, said the investigations staff is always available to answer questions for individuals who are unsure whether or not they have actually been a victim of a sexual predator, or of sexual misconduct.

Marcy added the feeling of helping victims come to a resolution after a sexual misconduct-related incident is like no other.

"We've got you covered," Marcy said.

To report sexual assault, call the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office at (605) 385-5233 or the 24/7 reporting line at (605) 385-SARC (7272).